Evaluating the Cost of Convenience

Meal delivery apps continue to grow in popularity, changing the way many of us access food. When it comes to on-demand food delivery, the delivery of essential products through apps such as Gopuff, the use of Instacart, meal subscription services, grocery delivery subscription services, or the purchase of certain convenience items at the grocery store, how much more are you paying for the convenience factor? Unfortunately, the vast majority of the time, the most convenient option is also the most expensive.

As we just mentioned, while meal delivery and grocery apps can be highly convenient for those on the go, they do come with a higher cost.  With delivery fees, service fees, and driver tips, it’s almost always cheaper to shop and cook yourself or dine in your favorite restaurant rather than opt for takeout and delivery. The extra costs can creep up and catch you by surprise, especially if you’re not watching for them. In fact, an article in the NY Times said delivery apps can be up to 91% more expensive. Now that’s significant.

Breaking down the cost of convenience 

Why does convenience cost so much more? When you order through delivery apps, you may be paying multiple parties a markup. Some restaurants even inflate the price of food delivered through apps to compensate for the delivery expenses. In various information found when researching different delivery apps, the cost of the exact same item from the exact same restaurant may vary by 20% or more depending on the app you use. Here is a breakdown of the different costs you may be facing:

  • The cost of the actual menu items you order.
  • A service fee or a fee charged by the delivery company for providing the service.
  • Taxes on your order.
  • A delivery fee on your items.
  • A gratuity, which is an optional tip for the driver.
  • The fee of a loyalty or subscription plan which may give you the benefit of no delivery fees, etc.

Although other convenience services, such as grocery delivery apps may not have those exact charges, there is still a significant upcharge for the convenience of the shopping and delivery vs. shopping yourself.

The cost of convenience inside the grocery store

As we mentioned above, convenience does come with a cost. Stroll through any grocery store and you’ll see displays of bagged, ready-to-serve salads, pre-cut fruits, chopped vegetables, and ready-made meals. It may be tempting to pick up these ready-to-use items when you are short on time, but if you compare costs, you may find it’s considerably cheaper if you do the work yourself. We’re all guilty of going for convenience. The last time I shopped, I purchased pre-cut watermelon, which I could plainly see was less product at a higher price than the option of purchasing and slicing a whole melon. In addition to a much higher cost, pre-cut fruits, and veggies, as well as some other prepared foods, come with a shorter shelf life.

Time vs. Money

Giving up the luxury of convenience often means giving up a lot of your time as well. What’s more valuable to you; your money or your time? If you prefer to spend your free time with family and friends rather than shopping or cooking, the time-saving of convenience services may be worth it for you.

On the other hand, if you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, you can probably eliminate the extra expenses incurred from various delivery and convenience services. It all comes down to your priorities and what you can actually afford to do. Keep in mind, whether it’s the subscription cost of a convenience service or the thousands of purchases you will have made for various convenience services, the cost of convenience over the course of your life can be significant.

Need to start budgeting? Read our “7 Steps for Creating a Budget You Stick to.”

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